A Ramshackle Modernity

A Ramshackle Modernity – That’s the name of the NY Times book review on the newly released English translation of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s The Time Regulation Institute. I was surprised to see my Turkish Studies friends sharing this article on their Facebook newsfeeds – it seemed almost too good to be true. As I graduate student at Sabanci University, I had searched for the original English translation of Tanpinar’s Time Regulation Institute long and hard. From what I could tell, there had been an earlier translation but it hadn’t been widely circulated and most people that I talked to didn’t know it even existed. Imagine my surprise when I found out through a simple web search that it was no other than a Madison-based press (Turko-Tatar press) run by a UW-Madison professor that had put the translation out. What an irony I thought. It had been right under my nose for four years and I hadn’t had the slightest clue of its existence. Imagine my horror when I realized that the Turko-Tatar’s website hadn’t been updated since 2007, and the likeliness of every obtaining a copy seemed to fade, especially now that I was in Istanbul and living on a student’s stipend. I decided to settle for Tanpinar’s better known novel, Huzur, and ordered up a copy of it’s English translation, A Mind at Peace, from one of the large Turkish booksellers. They delivered it to my door one summer in Bursa, but that summer was unbearably hot, and I couldn’t find a cool place to sit and enjoy the novel, a novel that required quite a bit from its reader. Sadly, I set aside the book in exchange for a lighter, easier summer read. I thought my ties with Tanpinar’s work had been severed.

By the time I graduated and returned to the US, the quest for an English copy of Tanpinar’s Time Regulation Institute was a distant memory. I tucked my copy of A Mind at Peace away in my antique traveling chest, and felt a slight pang of guilt everytime it caught my eye. After all, I had given up about 3/4 the way through – rarely, do I leave a book unfinished.  I would have altogether forgotten about the other, more desired book, The Time Regulation Institute, had it not been for the recent review in the NY Times. Blindsided by the review, memories came tumbling back. I told anyone and everyone about the article and the new translation. Surprisingly, some of my Turkish friends hadn’t ever heard of the book. Most knew Tanpinar but had no idea any of his books had been translated into English. Luckily, the book’s translation had Maureen Freely’s name on it, and I knew I was in for a treat. I downloaded the book the day it was released… and now.. I am just waiting for the right time to start the first page. This one deserves the perfect timing. I’ve been waiting for almost 4 years, and I’ll wait a few more days.

Fun Fact: Kalem Agency, the company where my roommate, Nazli, works supplied the photo for the NY Times article!tanpinar